UPDATE: WV Supreme Court Impeachment Proceedings

UPDATE: WV Supreme Court Impeachment Proceedings

Update to the update: following a recess, it was determined that the agreement for censure was out of order. Whether an agreement will ultimately come to fruition is unknown; for now, trials for Walker, Workman, Davis and Loughry are set for October and November.

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The corruption and impeachment drama in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals regarding inappropriate spending had some interesting developments today, as the impeachment trial is set to begin. Word came at lunchtime that an agreement has apparently been reached between the House of Delegates and two of the justices, Margaret Workman and Beth Walker.1The two judges have purportedly agreed to be censured, but will keep their seats on the high court.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two justices keeping their seats, two who announced their retirement over the summer (Robin Davis and Menis Ketchum, the latter of whom pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud stemming from a federal investigation), and one justice, Allen Loughry, suspended, indicted by the feds, and still facing impeachment.

Democrats have criticized the en banc impeachment effort, calling it an attempted coup by Republicans to take over the Court. Their criticism seemed somewhat validated when the two vacated seats were filled on a temporary basis with Republican leadership- former state House speaker Tim Armistead and former US Representative Evan Jenkins- despite both retiring justices being Democrats. But those two seats will be on November’s ballot in a non-partisan race. Further, the two justices who will remain include one Democrat and one Republican.

Justice  Loughry, who has refused to resign despite staring down a multi-count federal indictment, still faces impeachment at the time of publication. He is currently suspended, as is his law license, and his seat is being temporarily filled by a local circuit court judge. If Loughry is removed, Republican governor Jim Justice will fill his spot by appointment, with the seat not reaching the ballot again until 2020.

Here’s to hoping we are nearing the end of this twisted, sordid road, and to the return of some semblance of stability to West Virginia’s high court. Its integrity, however, is unlikely to recover for quite some time.

  1. The original version of this article erroneously stated that the deal was reached between the Senate and the two justices. []

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Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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8 thoughts on “UPDATE: WV Supreme Court Impeachment Proceedings

  1. Hopefully this moment of sanity was brought to you by voters contacting their senators and calling shenanigans, such that people started feeling uncertain with regard to the next election.

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      • The danger of going to trial, even in the relatively loose legal environment of impeachment is that evidence has to be presented and witnesses cross examined. State legislators really really need to think long and hard about what price they are willing to pay here. Because if the judges being tried are acquitted that will dog people for several election cycles. If they are convicted – particularly along party lines – it will dog people for several election cycles.

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        • I don’t know that they need to present witnesses. Sounds like the procedural issue might be that the Senate cannot broker a deal with any Justices without the House. But the Senate could shortchange the House’s presentment by ruling that both sides can present any evidence they want considered in writing.

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          • Yeah, I need to update and fix a factual error. Apparently, the House negotiated the deal and the Senate said no, arguing that nothing in the rules allows for an agreement.
            They also refused to halt proceedings on Justice Davis, despite her having resigned, which seems to me a big waste of time and money.

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            • OK, so it sounds to me like once the House voted on the impeachment and sent it over to the Senate, they lost authority over the matters. The House representatives can make a recommendation.

              Still it doesn’t seem like this should take long unless the Senate wants it to. The Blago trial took four days, and as far as I can recall the main fact “testimony” were a sampling of the FBI tapes. The FBI/DOJ asked that its witnesses not be used for fear of interfering with the criminal trial. So it was mostly documents and official records that everybody was already familiar with. Blago didn’t testify or even participate until his closing statement, as he was similarly constrained to avoid doing anything that would prejudice his criminal trial.

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              • There was lots of testimony given at the House hearings. I wonder if they will duplicate it?
                The trial is run by “managers” from both chambers, who act as the prosecutors, but the Senate basically said they didn’t think they could “assume guilt or innocence” without evidence being presented. Which is strange, because a lot of them are lawyers who seem to be pretending not to know what a stipulation is. Also, my reading of the rules seems to allow for stipulation, so I don’t know what’s going on.
                Another odd thing about this as that it is not really split on party lines. There are Rs and Ds arguing both sides of it.

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                • I don’t think there is a rule against hearsay; I guess the questions would be whether live testimony is necessary to get public buy-in and what the defense needs to respond. I guess if I were running things and wanted to control the process, I would admit the House record into evidence and work from there.

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